The goal: Gold in Rio 2016 in the men's 26.2 mile marathon.
If I am to win the gold, my commitment and discipline must be utter and complete. Only the sharpest mind and most able body can claim gold. I have taped the phrase “There can be only one” after The Highlander (great movie) to my mirror so that I can see it every morning when I get up and be inspired to be that “one.”
In that spirit, I set my alarm for 5:00am this morning to begin my training. Then slept through my alarm because I stayed up too late watching the Olympics for inspiration. Curse you Gabby and Michael Phelps!! Ha Ha! Oh well. We'll try again tomorrow.
Last night, I set the alarm for 5:00am to begin my Olympic training!
Then I realized, it’s Saturday, for gosh sake! Who wants to get up that early on a Saturday?!? Reset the alarm for 7:00am.
Finally got up at 11:00am and had breakfast. The kids were chattering away about their trip to the beach. Realized I’ve been so preoccupied with my gold medal (positive thinking!) that I didn’t even realize they’d been away!
Now I truly understand what they mean by the single-mindedness of Olympic athletes.
Anyway, I was feeling so enthusiastic and positive about winning that I briefly contemplated hopping on a plane to London and demanding they let me run in the marathon THIS year! But I figured they’d probably start quoting “rules” at me about “qualifying” and stuff, and I don’t need that hassle. It would mess with my focus. Besides, I have to remember, I am part of a team. An Olympic team! The little voice in my head says, "The Olympics are not all about YOU, Henry!" I say, "Shut up, little voice!" (kidding). But seriously, it's a humbling insight. Besides, the NEXT Olympics will be all about me.
Note to self: remember to stay humble in interviews after the medal ceremony. That will play better when the endorsement deals come rolling in.
Got so lost in my reverie that I completely forgot to train again! Had a good laugh about that with my wife, Judy, who, apparently, laughed on the inside.
Tomorrow, definitely. After all, I’ve got four years, right? This is another good lesson: I don’t want to be too hard on myself for my failures in this process. I don't want to stand on that podium and think back on all the sacrifices; I want to think back on all the FUN! Remember to enjoy the journey, Henry!
Whoa! Rough night last night. Judy got violently ill and went to be early, so I decided to celebrate my 2016 gold medal run a little early all by myself. Had an AWESOME celebration and imagined so many people saying such nice things about how inspiring I am. Went to bed really late. Judy woke me in the middle of the night saying she needed to go to the hospital, and I wanted to be there for her, but I told her that during these intense days of training, I really needed all the sleep I could get.
This must be what they meant when they said training for the Olympics involves sacrifice.
She had to drive herself, poor thing. We’ll laugh about it later, but I do feel kind of bad. She was a good sport and also took the kids with her because I have to get up early to run, and I don't want to leave them alone in the house.
See? You can maintain a rigorous training schedule and still be a good parent!
Slept through the alarm again. Finally got up at 11:00, went downstairs and Judy was nowhere to be found. Couldn’t figure it out for a while, then I remembered – hospital! (Whoops!) I called around and finally found out where she was. The doctor said it was touch and go, but she would pull through. This is a huge relief because it won’t interrupt my training!
Now it was time to get to work! Started to change into my workout clothes, when it occurred to me that maybe I need a theme song. Something that will motivate me to get out of bed in the morning! Got onto the Interwebs and began searching for good ones. “Eye of the Tiger” is overdone. “Don’t Stop Believin’” is a great song, but might not be athletic enough. By the time I finally settled on one (Peter Gabriel’s “Salisbury Hill” – I will visualize the podium as “home” every time he sings “take me home”), the afternoon was lost.
Judy finally came back, and I told her the good news about my theme song. She said she was really upset with me for staying up so late when she was really sick, not taking her to the hospital when she needed to go, or even visiting her when her life was in danger. She went on like this for quite a while, but never once said anything about the theme song, so I assume she likes it. Rio here I come!
Alarm went off at 5:00am, and I turned it off and sat right up to make sure I’d get up and get started with my training!
Took just one second to try to wake up, and started thinking about which cereal box I’d like to be on when I win my gold medal. Wheaties has always been the breakfast of champions, but seriously, who eats Wheaties anymore? That’s so 1970s. I’m part of the NOW generation, or at least, I will be when I win the gold! I think I want to be on a cereal that lots of kids eat so that more people see my face and can be inspired by my story. But who do I want to inspire, that’s the question. Kids? Yeah, sure, why not? Middle-aged guys? You bet! Women? (No worries there – chicks dig gold medals). Ideally, I guess, my appeal should be multi-gender and generational.
So I decided on Fruit Loops.
This decision made, I was ready to hit the road!
Unfortunately, without thinking, I had crawled under the covers and inadvertently fallen back asleep. Wound up late for work, too (oops! :)). THAT didn’t go over so well. Still, I think it’s good that I get a lot of these ancillary issues settled early. That way, I can focus solely on training! Tomorrow, my new life of discipline and rigor begins!
Overslept again. This is getting ridiculous! How do I expect to be the champion I was born to be if I can’t even get my butt out of bed to run a mile or two?!?
(Note to self: on the gold medal podium, remember to give a shout out to all those who did not medal. They worked hard too.)
You know, I think I’m learning something about myself. I’m learning that I REALLY don’t like getting up early! I think this is an important insight, because it means that the problem isn’t ME, it’s my training.
Wow! This is like the second or third big insight I’ve had about myself in five days! Olympians always say you learn a lot about yourself when you train, and they sure are right! Told Judy this great insight, and she just stared at me with her mouth open. Clearly, she was just as bowled over as I was!
My training has really brought the two of us together. I feel so proud of myself for pulling myself out of a really bad place with positive and pro-active thinking that I’m going to reward myself by starting my (evening!) training tomorrow rather than tonight.
Boy was that a dumb idea! I am way too tired at the end of a hard work day to put on jogging clothes and go running! What was I thinking!
Last night, I was so mad at myself, I just sat on the couch stuffing my face with Ho Hos, watching the Olympics, and refusing to talk to Judy or the kids. God! They can be so needy! I really don’t need this when I need to be FOCUSING. Judy even started yelling at me about something, but I just tuned her out. Think I heard the words, “mother,” “stay,” “kids,” and “taking” at various points, but it’s a bit of a blur.
(Note to self: tuning all this out was good practice for maintaining a laser-like focus when out on the road surrounded by adoring masses cheering on my inspirational run.)
Still, my increased physical fitness has bred a concomitantly increased interpersonal sensitivity, and when I shouted out for Judy to bring me more Ho Hos later that night, and she wasn’t even in the house (Note to self: need to talk to Judy about being more supportive in general; also good use of the word “concomitantly” – remember to tell the kids to “stay in school” when interviewing with Bob Costas), I sensed something was wrong. I was just about to pick up the phone to call her cell, when I overheard an announcer say that so much of Olympic competition is mental. And I know I’ve heard athletes say that before, too.
And then it hit me like a thunder stroke: I have spent SOOOO many hours imagining myself on that gold medal podium, imagining the interviews with Bob Costas, the sponsorship deals, the cheering, that even though I haven’t run a yard, I have totally been ROCKING the mental aspect of preparing for the Olympics! It got me wondering -- with all the MENTAL training I’ve been doing, do I need to do any ACTUAL training at all!?
Felt a lot better after this and put the phone down. Feel A LOT better about my training now and think it’s going to go much smoother from here on out. Celebrated with a bag of Ho Hos.
Still no word from Judy or the kids. Hmm…I really did think I’d hear from them by now. I was going to call her this morning, but instead I lay in bed writing some sound bites I’m going to need for the interviews I do after my gold-medal race!
“I always believed in myself, Bob.”
“If you want something badly enough, dreams do come true!”
“I’d like to give all the glory to God, but frankly, it was all me!” (kidding! – Seriously, shout out to God).
Felt so liberated by my revelation last night, I thought about putting on my running gear and actually going for a run! Looked around for a while, but couldn’t find my shoes. I mean anywhere! Briefly considered running barefoot as that’s very “Now” these days. Took off my socks and immediately put them back on again because bare feet gross me out.
Called Judy to see if she knew where my shoes were. Boy was that a mistake! You’re never going to believe this, but it turns out that not only has she taken the kids to go live with her parents, she threw my shoes in a landfill! What really sucks (in that it’s embarrassing), is that she did it several days ago, and I only found out today!
Only then did I realize that Judy has been subtly undermining me throughout this whole process! No WONDER I haven’t been able to get up in the morning to train! It’s all been Judy’s fault! This actually make me feel a little better, because, again, the problem is not me. But man! I think about all those gold-medal athletes you see interviewed who talk about all the support they had from their family, about how much was sacrificed so that they could make their dream come true.
What a crock! Why can’t I have a family like that?! Some people’s family give up EVERYTHING to help an Olympian achieve their dreams. Not mine!
Note to self: People suck!
If this dream is going to come true, it is clear to me now – painfully clear – that I’m all alone. I have to stop relying on others. I’m going to have reach deep within myself to find inner strength and resources I didn’t even know I had!
And it will be all the more sweet when I stand on that gold-medal podium, because I will know it WAS all me.
This led to a stroke of genius – what I SHOULD do was go out and buy a NEW pair of shoes – something really flash and expensive – and go out for a run anyway. That’d send her a message!
An OLYMPIC message!
Bought a pack of cigarettes instead.
Great. Now my mental training is suffering! Didn’t even bother setting the alarm this morning. Instead, lay in bed trying to come up with a funny story to tell about my training when I get invited on to David Letterman, but realized, I don’t HAVE any. This made me really depressed. Decided to blow off work. Had my new “breakfast of champions” – coffee and cigarettes – and watched some more Olympics. Started really missing Judy and the kids, but I’m still too mad at them for undermining my training like they did. It’s so hard when people don’t live up to your expectations.
Then it occurred to me, THIS is a funny story that I can tell when I talk to Letterman! When I’ve won the gold and all this is behind me, I’ll be able to tell America – and the world, really – about how it wasn’t all smooth sailing getting the gold.
Me: There was even one time when my wife threw my shoes in a landfill!
Letterman (laughing): Stop it, you’re killing me! (changes tone, turns serious) It’s amazing that you overcame such obstacles to win the gold!
Me: I didn’t just win it for me, Dave.
Letterman: Really? No! How so? It seems pretty obvious that this was all you, so you should get all the glory. No, really!
[applause; cheers from the audience]
Me: That's very true Dave, but no. These are the Olympics. I ALSO won gold for America.
Me: I’m keeping the medal though!
Letterman: We have to take a commercial break. When we come back, we were going to talk to George Clooney, but if you can hang around, Henry, we’ll bump him to tomorrow night.
Me: Sure! (Note to self: Feel pretty certain George will understand.)
Dave always makes me feel better. Dave understands that the secret to late night talk shows is that if your guest looks good, you look good. Started thinking about who should do my hair for the interview, and had another cigarette.
Weighed myself today and saw that after all my hard work and training, I have gained about 10 pounds. Given the setbacks of the past few days, this threw me a little.
Okay, a lot. I sobbed uncontrollably for about 45 minutes. I think maybe everything just came crashing down on my head at once – the intense hours of training, the pressure, the expectations of a nation, Judy and the kids’ utter BETRAYAL of my Olympic dreams! I’m not gonna lie, it’s a lot for one person to take on all by himself.
As I sat there wallowing in a pool of my own despair, I really wondered – am I up to this challenge I have set myself? Do I really have what it takes to be the best of the best of the best? Am I championship material after all? Sometimes, a true champion has to ask himself these hard questions and be willing to be brutally honest. I took a long hard look at myself in the mirror, and didn’t like what I saw:
A whining, puffy-faced, cry-baby.
Fortunately, I remembered that muscle weighs A LOT more than fat, and so I attributed the weight gain to my rigorous exercise regimen. This made me feel better, so I went downstairs and had some coffee and Ho Hos.
I have to say though, despite her utter BETRAYAL, I am starting to miss Judy. For one thing, there’s almost NO food left in the house! Obviously, with my intense exercise regimen, I don’t have time to go to the store. So I don’t know what she expects me to DO! I NEED food while I exercise. In fact, I probably need to be putting on a lot of EXTRA calories to compensate for the energy I expend in training. That’s why I’m downing the Ho Hos.
And the ice cream.
And the beer.
But does she care about that? NO!
I hate to say it, but I may have to call her and APOLOGIZE for not taking her to the hospital, not being a better dad, father, blah blah blah, on and on, sorry sorry sorry, just so I can get a decent MEAL! Desperate times, and all that…
Upside: apologizing first will make me the bigger person.
She bought it! Turns out, she’s been missing me too! (C’mon! No real surprise there (wink wink!)).
No, for realz, I called and the conversation went something like this:
Judy: (long pause) What?
Me: There’s no food in the house, and I…
Me: Hey, don’t hang up!
Judy: What do you want, Henry?
Me: Ummm…I dunno, I was wondering if, maybe, you’d like to come home?
Me: Look my Olympic training has been…
Judy: WHAT Olympic training?!!? [She’s so funny!]
Me: Look, I was really mad when you threw my shoes away and…
Judy: It’s not like you were using them!
Me: (laughing) Ha ha!
[Side note: I read in an advice column the other day about a woman who is training for a triathlon, and her husband is getting mad at all the training, and the advice columnist said it's okay to ask him to be understanding when it's a one-time life ambition. This turned out to be so useful.]
Me: No seriously…I guess I understand why you got mad, but listen, this is my dream, okay? My Olympic dream. [I paused here for effect – just to let it really sink in] I know it’s hard on everyone, but if you can just bear with me for four more years…
I love her! She was so excited to come home, she didn’t even say goodbye! I’m so happy! Thought about calling back and telling her to swing by the store on her way home to get some groceries, but then I figured I should probably clean up a little before she gets back. The place is a mess. Then I was like -- duh, Henry! She’s coming back! Let her do it. After all, I was the one who apologized!
Of all the things I thought I would learn on my Olympic journey, I never expected humility to be one of them.
And talk about leverage! I’m going to have to try something similar with work, because I think their patience is coming to an end with my repeated absences…we’ll see. I can’t think about that right now.
Anyway, I was so proud of myself for swallowing my pride, I decided then and there to quit smoking.
It's true -- exercise DOES make you a better person.
Well, I sure read that one wrong! Turns out Judy’s not coming home! After I apologized and everything!! I handed her my heart on a platter, and she just threw it on the ground, stepped on it, and ground it into the dirt!!
So much for humility!
Plus, now the Olympics are over, I don't know WHAT I'm supposed to be inspired by. This totally SUCKS!
Started smoking again.
Judy still gone. Soooooooooooo hungry!! Ate the last of the dry pancake mix.
Okay, wow. I called work, and they told me they “no longer require my services.” Their position is that if I can’t be bothered to show up to work while I train, they’re not going to pay me. Which really burns me because I read all these stories in the papers about Olympians whose work places give them all KINDS of support, how PROUD they are to be working with an Olympian, etc., etc. Are you telling me that with all the training they do, they actually show up to work TOO?!?
I have to say, this whole Olympic plan isn’t working out the way I thought it would. I expected the hard work. I expected the rigorous training. I didn’t expect that I would lose EVERYTHING in the process! You look at those winners on the gold-medal podium and they look so HAPPY. Like they’ve gotten everything they’ve ever wanted in the WORLD!
It’s so UNFAIR! WHY does the world give everything to some people, and absolutely NOTHING to others?! Why do bad things happen to good people?!? What kind of world is this where a person can’t achieve their dreams!?!
All I want is an Olympic gold medal. I’m sure I want it enough. What is the lesson of sports if not, “wanting it enough = getting it”?!?
Then I had a breakthrough. These gold-medalists – what are they going to do now?! Take Michael Phelps: he’s accomplished everything he ever wanted. NOW what?!? What do you do when all your dreams come true? Okay granted, Willy Wonka said, “Live happily ever after,” but that’s a movie. I’m talking about real life. The camera doesn’t fade out. The credits don’t roll. Michael still has to get up every morning FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE knowing the best is behind him. Nothing he ever does EVER AGAIN will be as great as this. Like those guys who landed on the moon and hated it.
That’s gotta suck! All of a sudden, I began wondering why on earth ANYONE would want a gold medal?!? Who needs the headache, right?
And it hit me like a thunderstroke: it's better to live with the HOPE of doing something great someday, than to actually achieve greatness! What is it Shakespeare said? "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
I think I'd rather have greatness thrust upon me.
In any event, I felt the weight of the world ease up off my shoulders. I felt like an anvil had been lifted off my chest. I could breathe again (though not so well, actually. I think all the smoking is catching up to me). Those guys on the podium – they can have it (suckers!). I felt like I had REALLY dodged a bullet.
Resolved then and there to clean the house, do some shopping (as soon as I can find the credit cards), crawl on my hands and knees to my boss and ask for my job back.
Oh, and apologize to Judy. Hey, I'm a big enough man to admit when I've done something stupid. It's like a syllogism:
Premise: Me training for the Olympics was stupid;
Conclusion: Training for the Olympics is stupid;
Conclusion 2: Wow, was I stupid!
That's just logic. And I can apologize when I know I've done something stupid.
I'm not going to apologize for not taking her to the hospital though. Pretty sure that was the right call.
After all, you've got to commit to your dreams, even if they're stupid.
Farewell Rio 2016. See you on the couch!